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August 3, 2012
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EPA faces budget cuts that could reach basin

Debate in Congress started last week on a bill the House Appropriations Committee approved in July 2011 that would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by $1.4 billion and could eventually affect the Lake Tahoe Basin.

"We're definitely concerned. Any cuts in funding regarding vital issues in the Basin we take seriously," Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board Executive Officer Patricia Kouyoumdijan said.

About $191,000 of the water quality board's $6.7 million budget comes from federal funds. If the bill passes, the organization might face some cuts, but it wouldn't be severe, Kouyoumdijan said.

"Roughly $40,000 of that ($191,000) could be affected. That being said, these activities are very critical to the board and if they were ever cut, we'd be looking to backfill those funds," she said.

According to Appropriations Committee website, the bill, which also includes annual funding for the the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service, is meant to limit government spending by reining in the agency.

"The bill reins in out-of-control regulation at the EPA - the poster child of the Administration's widespread regulatory outreach that is hurting nearly every sector of our economy," House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers stated on the site.

Environmental riders in the bill that limit the EPA's ability to regulate water quality have organizations like American Rivers, a national nonprofit that works to protect rivers and streams, and the Water Environment Federation, a nonprofit that represents water quality professionals around the world, worried.

According to the WEF website, the bill contains provisions that would block EPA's ability to regulate interstate pollution and stormwater runoff. American Rivers Senior Director of Government Relations Jim Bradley issued a letter stating that the reduced enforcement would benefit polluters by blocking new pollution rules.

But Kouyoumdijan is skeptical the bill will pass the Senate, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the legislation. How the potential water quality issues would affect the Lake Tahoe Basin remains unclear.

"We just can't tell at this point. There might be a 30 percent cut nationwide, but that might not affect us," Communications Specialist for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Jeff Cowen said.

The Lake Tahoe Basin is a national leader when it comes to water quality initiatives, and a top priority for those federal funds, Cowen said.

If the cuts do reach the TRPA, it would affect the agency's $800,000 fund that allows for the TRPA to offer free permitting and consulting for best management practices that can reduce erosion and runoff, according to the Tahoe BMP website.


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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 3, 2012 08:07PM Published Aug 3, 2012 08:05PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.